Phil Burkhart: Austin Symphony Orchestra announces its new season

Published 7:51 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2023

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It gives me great pleasure to announce our 2023-2024 season, and what a season we have planned for you! We are calling it “May I Tell You A Story.” As that theme suggests, the season is filled with fun, mystery, jazz, a world class pianist, and the return of two of our most popular concerts-Michael Veldman and Friends and the Messiah. All concerts are on Sundays at 2 p.m. in Knowlton Auditorium.

Our first concert on Oct. 30 will be our Halloween themed concert titled “An Orchestral Mystery.”  It will feature professional actor, Jake Endres, narrating a piece by Lemony Snicket called “The Composer is Dead.” This is a hilarious story about a detective searching for the instruments of the orchestra that were responsible for ruining the composer’s music.

Kids and adults will love it. Other “scary” music will include the music from the movie “Psycho” and “Danse Macabre” by Saint Saens, performed side-by-side with the Austin High School Orchestra as part of our educational outreach. We will also feature the world premiere of “Brouhaha” by Austin High School student composer Blake Zimmerli.

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On Dec. 10 we welcome back Michael Veldman and Friends for a return engagement. Last year was our first with this popular local quartet and the response was so overwhelming that we had to have them back. For those who don’t know the group, Michael is joined by Erin Schumacher, Kaye Perry and Brian Bawek to perform both sacred and secular holiday favorites with the symphony. Most exciting is the fact that much of this year’s program will be new songs and new arrangements, along with old favorites. I would recommend that you get your tickets early for this concert as we nearly sold out last year.

Our third concert features world class pianist Jon Kimura Parker performing the jazzy “Concerto in F” by Gershwin on Feb. 25, 2024. He has performed with major orchestras around the world, most recently with the Minnesota Orchestra. He will captivate the audience with his personality and breathtaking musicianship.

The second half of the concert will feature the symphony performing the much-loved “Symphony No. 2” by Rachmaninoff.  Mr. Parker will also be presenting a free masterclass at 2 p.m. on Feb. 24, in Knowlton sponsored by the MacPhail Center for Music – Austin.

Finally, we close our season with the first piece that was played by the Austin Symphony 67 years ago – the beloved “Messiah” on May 5, 2024. Many people don’t realize that, although it is performed usually at Christmas, much of the piece deals with the Easter story. Thus, we decided to follow the lead of other orchestras and perform it in the spring. Sonia Larson will lead the 60 voice Symphony Chorus with local soloists.

We are also offering two special events for those who choose to donate to the symphony – a Meet the Artist Recital and Social after the concert on Feb. 25 for donors at the Benefactor level and above and a pre-concert talk before the Messiah by MacPhail artist and teacher Jacob Crosby for all donors. More information about these opportunities and about becoming a donor is available on our website ( or by calling 507-460 -3678.

Finally, the Friends of the Symphony will be holding two fundraisers this season. The first is Harvest Hoedown with professional fiddler Brian Christianson and friends from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15. Tickets are available at or from Friends of the Austin Symphony. The second fundraiser is a post-concert dinner on May 5, 2024 at the Austin Country Club. More information on these events is available on our website.

Season tickets are available now on our website – However, if you purchased season tickets or donated to the symphony in the past you should have received an order form in the mail. If you have not, please call 507-460-3678. The cost is $80 for adults and $70 for seniors 65 and older. Children 18 and younger and college students with college ID are free. To keep better track of our attendance, however, we are requesting this season that everyone have a ticket, so when you purchase your ticket you will be asked to indicate how many of those free children/college tickets you will need and we will include those with your order. Individual concert tickets are also available now for $25 on our website or three weeks before each concert at Hy-Vee and Coffee House on Main. Tickets purchased at the door the day of the concert are $30. If you have any questions call 507-460-3678 or visit

These concerts are supported by grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Southeast Minnesota Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.